This photo perfectly encapsulates the way Aston Villa fans have felt about Stephen Ireland. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
When conducting a Google search on Stephen Ireland, the word "nightmare" appears quite frequently. It's clear that Aston Villa did not receive a bargain when they accepted Ireland as makeweight in the James Milner deal with Manchester City. Although the midfielder showed just enough promise to make many Villa fans pretty excited, that hope withered and died once Ireland took to the pitch. Apparently, however, Newcastle believe they can dig deep and extract the tiny bright light shining through in Ireland, and are willing to take the risk.
It helps as well that the Magpies have lost Alan Smith for the rest of the season, the ankle injury he picked up against Sunderland last week having been more serious than previously thought. Newcastle need cover and, probably out of pure desperation, are willing to pay for it in the form of Stephen Ireland.
While I'm perfectly willing to wish John Carew the best of luck in his future at Stoke, and wherever else he might go, I'm not mature enough to wish Ireland well. He hasn't performed and while at times he did look upset with himself, he's also acted like a petulant child at other times. He frequently missed the net, his passes went to no one, there was no spark of creativity to be found. Any time that Villa fans get excited because a player doesn't actively mess up, well, it's time for him to move on.
Out for the Villa: Steve Sidwell, John Carew, Stephen Ireland (crosses fingers)
If you haven't already, mark down January as a win.